Welcome to This Week in Shonen Jump, in which a rotating duo of Multiversity staffers take a look at two stories contained in each installment of Viz Media’s Weekly Shonen Jump. For the uninitiated, Weekly Shonen Jump is an anthology that delivers more than 200 pages of manga of all varieties. We hope that you’ll join us in exploring the world of Weekly Shonen Jump each week. If you are unfamiliar, you can read sample chapters and subscribe at Viz.com.
This week, Zach and Vince review “The Promised Neverland” and “Bozebeats.” If you have any thoughts on these titles, or “Food Wars,” “We Never Learn,” “Robot X Laserbeam,” “Dr. Stone,” “One Piece,” “Hunter X Hunter,” “Act Age,” or “My Hero Academia,” let us know in the comments!
Bozebeats – Chapter 3: Tokyo Beltway, Full Throttle!!
Written and illustrated by Ryoji Hirano
Review by Vince J Ostrowski
As a “Jump Start” series, “Bozebeats” has been given 3 chapters to catch the eyes of American readers with a little bit of demon hunting, an intriguing mix of religious/occult iconography, and action scenes that are original (albeit somewhat confusing – a point that I agree upon with fellow Multiversity writer Brian Salvatore, see his review from a couple weeks ago). The problem is that we’re given such a small sprinkling of each of these aspects that I’m not sure the book gets to show us everything it’s got.
The chapter opens with the reader being immediately reminded how and why the main character, wolf boy Tamaki Madoka, has made his way to Tokyo. As these things generally go in shonen manga, he’s in the big city to train with the heavy-hitting demon fighter Buddhist monks and maybe even learn a little something about himself. Madoka himself is something of a blank slate character, but his mysterious connection to the unseen demons around Tokyo intrigues. He feels a nostalgia for them, despite never having been to Tokyo before, and while that’s definitely enough of a hook to build a story around, I don’t have a good feel for the characters’ personalities yet. Madoka has potentially taken up with some pretty badass monks, but their actions speak louder than their words. I suppose that’s fitting, but the book could use a bigger personality somewhere.
Hirano’s art is perfectly fine shonen art too: handsome as it gets, and dynamic in its action scenes. I do think the fight scenes are a little unclear, as far as placement and staging of the characters is concerned. This is a common issue in manga, where artists tend to cram a lot of action into small panels vs. choosing to use a bigger, more widescreen approach. Some manga navigate this extremely well: “Food Wars!” and “My Hero Academia” are great examples of this. “Bozebeats”, while serviceable, gets into a little trouble when the panels are smaller and crammed. Take the closing scene of the issue, for example. The characters come up against some rolling fire-wheel demons (a very cool, and instantly memorable set of designs indeed). Madoka executes some sort of jump-attack from the back of the motorcycle he’s on, but because of the overuse of close-ups combined with smaller panels in this segment, the exact motion or mechanism of his attack isn’t readily apparent. It’s a recurring issue in a book that otherwise looks really nice.
The end of the issue teases that the fire-wheel demons are just the tip of the iceberg. Their utterly strange visual designs and the promise of more to come is enough to have me hoping we’ll see more in future weeks. I wonder if the muted characterization and the somewhat less impactful action scenes might prevent that from happening.
Final Verdict: 6.9 – “Bozebeats” is a nice shonen series so far, but it feels like it’s holding back in the early chapters. I hope it gets a chance to spread its wings more in Weekly Shonen Jump on a regular basis
The Promised Neverland Chapter 72
Written by Kaiu Shirai
Illustrated by Posuka Demizu
Reviewed by Zach Wilkerson
The last few chapters of “The Promised Neverland” have propelled the story forward by leaps and bounds, getting to the heart of the mystery behind Goldy Pond and the hunting grounds village. In chapter 72, we’re given payoff to a major plot point, while at the same time handed a new MacGuffin to further entice readers. All in all, par for the course for this addictively enjoyable series.Continued below
Quite literally “picking up” from last chapter’s ringing phone cliffhanger, chapter 72 sees Emma finally converse with the elusive William Minerva. Or rather, I should say, a recording of Minerva. It seems that the actual Minerva, who we now know to be one James Ratri, has long since shuffled off from this mortal coil. However, the revelation of his death is not the crushing blow one might expect, as a large amount of exposition lays out Minerva’s history, his connection to the demons, and a new hope for our protagonist.
The revelation of the purpose of the elevator, an entry way back into the human world, is quite surprising this early in the series. Even more surprising, and a little frustrating when you think about it, is that there are better function portals within the four major farms, including the children’s own Grace Field house. This new piece of information hints at a future triumphant return to the farm and, as such, a final showdown against “Mom.” Such a confrontation has likely been an inevitability, as Emma desires to save the children who remained behind. However, this possibility is subverted by yet another mystery, that of the “Seven Walls.”
This continual “bait and switch,” rather than leading to frustrating or unsatisfactory storytelling, actually serves to further grow and enhance the series. Shirai-san has, to this point, done an exceptional job of teasing out the history of this world in unexpected ways, and this chapter is no exception. There’s a satisfying bit of world building at play, hinting further at the past dealings between humans and demons and the demon’s world. This chapter demonstrates that there’s ripe potential for a flashback arc or spinoff series, perhaps showcasing the early days of the treaty, Minvera’s secret rebellion, the founding of the Goldy Pond village.
On the art side of things, Posuka Demizu’s terrific work is further accentuated by stunning colored pages in the chapter’s opening. Getting to see Goldy Pond as, well, actually gold, goes a long way towards making the setting feel real and tangible. Demizu-san’s greatest strength is her expressively detailed characters, and her portrayal of Emma and Lucas’s surprise and joy in this chapter really elevates a chapter that could have otherwise been a lifeless information dump. One area that feels somewhat unsatisfying, however, is the asymmetric panel blocking utilized throughout the chapter. This blocking style creates a considerable amount of negative space, which feels somewhat wasted, considering that many panels are quite busy and crowded.
Composition complaints aside, this is an immensely satisfying and exciting issue for “The Promised Neverland.” While the chapter ends on yet another cliffhanger, the small bit of resolution provided here and the promise of new adventures to come paints an exciting picture for the future of the series.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – “The Promised Neverland” continues to impress with its intriguing characters, mysteries, and setting.